This weekend, the Wildcats will face their third imposing defense in a row when they travel to Palo Alto for a matchup with Stanford.
The Cardinal are coming off a tough loss, but still managed to hold Washington to 313 total yards and just 17 points. Stanford also held a potent USC offense to just 14 points earlier this season in an upset victory.
Overall, the Cardinal are giving up 15.2 points and 316.5 total yards per game. That is certainly worth noting considering the teams that they have faced so far.
The defensive front is only allowing 65 yards per game on the ground. The run stopping attack is really led by two senior linebackers, Trent Murphy and Chase Thomas who are together averaging 10.2 tackles per game. Stanford bolsters a physical defensive front seven that has been very stingy against opposing rushing attacks this season so far.
Looking behind the front, the secondary has been less impressive, but with a silver lining. The secondary has given up 251.5 passing yards per game this season, which isn't bad, but only ranks eighth in the conference.
However, with plenty of playmakers covering wide receivers, the Cardinal defense has intercepted seven passes this season so far and returned two for touchdowns.
Both teams are coming off of close losses filled with multiple missed opportunities. Arizona's offense turned the ball over on a last minute drive, and Stanford gave up a ten-point lead to lose the game late.
With both teams in need of a win to get back on the right path, one important matchup will be the Arizona offense against the Stanford defense.
It is no secret that Arizona's defense and the Stanford offense are the lesser of the two battles on Saturday. It will just come down to Arizona being able to score against a good Cardinal defense.
Players to watch:
#93 LB, Trent Murphy – Murphy has been a force for the defense so far this season. He is averaging just fewer than five tackles a game with one being a tackle for loss. Murphy also has an interception returned forty yards for a touchdown. He has always been a solid defender that doesn't make too many mistakes and now his experience gives him that extra edge.
#6 CB, Terrence Brown – Leading the team in tackles, Brown has been all over the field. The only meaningful category that he hasn't broken into is sacks. However being a defensive back, he doesn't get very many opportunities to get to the quarterback. Brown is a dangerous player that can affect the game if the Wildcat receivers and Matt Scott aren't on the right page.
#44 LB, Chase Thomas – Starting opposite Murphy, Thomas helps Stanford create a potent linebacker corps. He is a tackling machine; reading plays early and getting to the ball quickly. Thomas is a run stopper who can get into the backfield and make plays in open space. Look for him to make an impact on Arizona's run game on Saturday.
#29 FS, Ed Reynolds – With the Arizona passing game having small hiccups and mistakes over the past two weeks, Ed Reynolds becomes the most dangerous player on the Cardinal defense. He has three interceptions on the young season with a total of 144 return yards and a touchdown.
Scott has thrown five picks in the last two games and Reynolds is foaming at the mouth with the opportunity to improve his numbers this weekend if Scott isn't on his game.
Keys to the game:
1. Attack early: So far this season, Arizona has lost the two games that it has failed to score on the opening drive. Most people will tell you that the first series of a game isn't going to win or lose the game for a team, but with the Wildcats, an early touchdown could give them some much needed momentum. Any early faltering shifts the momentum the other way and the game could get out of hand.
2. Turnovers: For the second straight week, Scott threw multiple interceptions, with one being on the final drive. Arizona's offense can't afford to give the ball away, especially in close games. Stanford's defense is the strong point of the team and has ten takeaways through four games this season. It will be important for Arizona to take care of the ball.
3. Run the ball: There is really no doubt that Ka'Deem Carey is one of the most potent threats for the Arizona offense. Yet, he only had 17 carries against Oregon State. The Wildcats were playing from behind for more than half of the game, but the offense is designed to make running easier by reading the defense. Plus, running the ball will open up the passing lanes.
4. Limit mistakes: There have been numerous mistakes over the past few games for Arizona and it has cost them a few points that may have made a difference in the game as far as score and momentum.
Against Stanford, the offense will have times that it struggles, but that can be limited with fewer mistakes. The offense doesn't have to be flawless in order to pull off the upset, but limiting mistakes is going to be key.